Makochan Presents MangaNEXT 2012 – Start of the Season Warm-up!

And now, Mako-chan presents her MangaNEXT 2012 con report!

Well, my start of the season anyway.  Mako-chan here with another wondrous telling of small scale con horrors, but this time, I’m at least in my own back yard!

The last weekend of February found me in East Rutherford, NJ for MangaNEXT.  Now not my first time to MangaNEXT, I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable with one of the worst layouts.  I appreciate that they try to step up every year and enjoy that they try to keep it related not only to Japanese Manga, but all Manga and graphic novels including those from the US. 
Friday, after getting lost getting to the train to pick up Ranma, getting lost after picking him up, and then missing the turn off into the hotel, which is on a one way street with only one entrance and a very convoluted way to get back to that one entrance, we finally got to the hotel!
It was a pretty slow paced relaxing day.  Trolled the Artist Alley and Dealers Room, which surprisingly had a really nice flow and walking clearance to them.  Some of the tables were spaced out a little odd and stuck in corners, but overall it didn’t feel crowded.

Cosplay for the day was pretty low key, with people waiting for Saturday to bring out the major props and costumes, but still a pretty fantastic turn out.
The only panel I ended up going to was Anime Parliament.  Now if you haven’t had the privilege of attending Anime Parliament I’ll give you the copy/pasta description from their website.  “Anime Parliament® is an open forum where fans and characters alike may come forward to dispute issues relating to their series, or a series of another character.”  In other words, if you have a problem with an anime and want to bring up charges on the characters, their interactions with each other, or something in the series itself, this is the place to do it.  It’s 2 hours of constant laughs and entertainment.  I highly suggest going to this panel if they are at a con near you.
Now, I’m not much for the dances and raves at cons.  I have a low tolerance for large crowds of hyper bouncy people, but Friday’s Dance Party was pretty fun.  Not at all crowded since it was Friday and the con itself is pretty small attendee wise.  The music was ok, if you’re into the club scene and electronic/dubstep type of thing.  The typical fare for a rave; glow sticks, glow wands, glow swords, glow rod limbo, you know…just your typical dance full of light up props and geeks, but with the room to not be hit when someone decided to start whipping their glow sticks around.
Ended up getting a late start for Saturday (see the fact that I actually went to the dance on Friday and it didn’t end till 3am and I like sleep) so pulled pack mull duty for a while and have to say the selection of cosplay was more plentiful and thankfully so.  However I was somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t as much grayscale cosplay as I had hoped to see.  Being a separate part of the hall costume judging, I had hoped to see a few more people walking around in the style.
After sticking around and videotaping the interview with Benn Dunn, I decided a nap was in order.  As I said, I like my sleep.  Anyway, so a nap and then a rush to get down to the Iron Cosplay Panel.  Up until the very end, I was almost wishing I had just stayed and napped some more.  MangaNEXT doesn’t do a traditional masquerade with judging and cosplay and skits.  For a couple of years, a cabaret type event was held, nothing really formal, everyone having fun, and a lot less restrictions on skits then what a typical masquerade participant would have to endure.  This year they decided to do Iron Cosplay, which I was really looking forward to watching.  Now from what I understand Iron Cosplay to be, is a cosplay version of the popular show Iron Chef.  I don’t know if this was a last minute change, or the program had the panel named wrong, but instead of Iron Cosplay, it was Cosplay Scenes from a Hat, which is from the improv comedy show Whose Line is it Anyway?  Each group was given 10 minutes to come up with a skit based on the characterizations drawn from a random pile on the table, and the audience’s suggestion for the scene.  While the skits were entertaining, the time between skits was long and drawn out, and while some of the panelists decided to dance during these breaks, it was pretty boring, at least in my opinion, for the audience.  Some people left due to the fact that they were expecting something completely different then what was provided and if it wasn’t for one group who completely blew the competition away, I would have been pretty disappointed with the whole thing.  I hope that if this is done next time, contestants are chosen before the panel starts or that something is done besides a dance show for the audience.  Perhaps other ideas from the TV show would work.  I would love to see the whole thing fleshed out a little more, because it has great potential.
From there it was a short trek to the 18+ Dating Game, which turned out to be hilarious. Contestants included Reverend Garterbelt trying to choose between Bridget, Trap Princess Aurora, and Play Boy Bunny Deadpool, Drunk Dratini trying to decide between Dr. Horrible, Pimp Ash Ketchum, and Depressed Espeon, however the best was GLaDOS trying to choose her test subject based on a character from a web comic, Sakura from Card Captors, and Sasuke.  You can’t top GLaDOS.
Then I was off on a quick run across the floor to Anime Parliament 18+ and my final panel of the night.  Seriously, did you read what I wrote about regular Anime Parliament?  Well go back and reread it and then remember that this was all adult potty humor instead, non-stop laughs, invading of one of the other 18+ panels, and an envoy from that panel bringing bribes of candy for the court.  So glad I was able to catch it this time, as so many other cons I have missed it entirely!
Sunday had the room cleaning out and packing up and the final walk around for pictures, last minute interviews, and saying goodbye to friends.  I ended up attending the Match Game panel, which was somewhat bittersweet, but while on standby as one of the “celeb guests” I ended up being chosen as a contestant instead.  A little sarcasm and “I can’t believe she said that!” later, and I won my match.  Go me!  But seriously, sarcasm is what wins.   It was a great way to end the panel section of the con.
The last stop of the day was a visit to the game rooms, and then a fond farewell to MangaNEXT with celebratory dinner with friends and crew.
However now some negatives.  Location, location, location!  While on a major highway near a semi major city for the state of NJ, there was nothing within walking distance of the hotel.  The trains were a good 15 minutes away and there was no food within walking distance besides the hotel restaurant and a Starbucks.  While there were plenty of places that delivered to the hotel, nothing came cheap, and it was pretty annoying.  The only thing that saved us was the fact that I brought food and it lasted the whole weekend.
While most of the con was stationed to take up the whole second floor, the video game rooms were on the 3rd floor, in what seemed to be regular rooms with all the furniture removed.  While they were eventually found, the schedule (which is usually the only thing people carry with them or look at while at the con) just said Video Gaming, and no notes or anything pointed to where they could be found.  Something by the elevators explaining that video games would be on the 3rd floor would have been extremely helpful, or at least something on the schedule itself.
All in all, a great weekend, and I’m happy to see the con growing and going strong.

DJ Ranma S

DJ Ranma S is cosplay veteran. He has won numerous performance awards with his friends over the years. He has staffed conventions in the past, ran panels, judged a couple of masquerades, a jack of all trades. He's worked dealer's room too! Running this site is his way of giving back to the cosplay community. He feels that it's his turn to give a future cosplayer their fifteen minutes of fame.

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